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Penn State President: "We're moving forward..."

In an exclusive interview, Penn State President Rodney Erickson talks with WTAJ News about his plans for moving Penn State beyond the Sandusky scandal.
UNIVERSITY PARK - Penn State President Rodney Erickson spoke confidently to the graduates sitting in the Bryce Jordan Center for the 2013 summer commencement.

"I hope your Penn State Experience has challenged and changed you," he said.

Challenge and change are two words that can adequately describe Penn State since the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

It was Rodney Erickson who became President of Penn State when the Sandusky fallout was at its peak in 2011, replacing former Penn State President Graham Spanier, who is charged with knowing about and covering up the crimes of Sandusky.

"We've made a lot of changes over the last two years," Erickson said. "Changes in governance, we've made changes that have made campus safer, and we've changed a number of administrative structures."

Penn State recently released a report showing that it was ahead of schedule in making many of the changes recommended by the Freeh Report. That report heavily criticized the culture at Penn State leading up the Sandusky scandal.

Even though the NCAA sanctions and some stigma remain, Erickson said Penn State's efforts at changing are paying off.

"I find that other presidents and university leaders I interact with continue to be impressed with the kind of things done at Penn State," he said. "Despite everything that happened, we're still a world class university and we're moving forward."

According to Penn State numbers, alumni donations are up 23% and near an all-time high, but applications for those wanting to attend the school are down by about 5,000.

Erickson says he's trying his best to meet the challenges.

"Higher education is changing a lot," he said. "We want to make sure that we're well positioned to meet those challenges as they come along...I want to leave this University in the best position I can, both academically, fiscally and otherwise."

Most recently, some of those challenges have come from Penn State employees critical of the University's health-insurance policy changes. Some say the new health-insurance policies are invasive. Erickson said the changes are necessary to control costs.

"We have a big challenge in front of us financially at the University," he said. "One of those areas we have control over is the health care expenditures," he continued. "We're asking people to get involved and take greater charge of their health."

Erickson is slated to leave the PSU Presidency in 2014, and the search is underway for his successor.

"We're looking for leadership in a number of areas," he said. "I'm helping with that search."


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